By Rob Robson
Trust Leadership Consultant at the Association of School and College Leaders
One of the changes in the recent schools’ white paper that was rolled out with very little fanfare was the introduction of Regional Directors who took over from Regional Schools Commissioners on July 1.
On the surface, not much seems to have changed. Previously, there were eight regions and now there are nine which line up with the government’s nine regions and those of Ofsted. All of the RSCs became RDs and one more was added. London has become its own region rather than the slightly odd arrangement where it was split into four and each quarter was part of another region.
So far so sensible.
But there are a few things to look out for with the new regional directors which ASCL members would do well to know:
At ASCL we are working closely with the DfE and ministers to represent your voice and to get these key roles right.
What does this mean for ASCL members?
- The name change is significant, RDs will now take a more directive role over the shape of the MAT landscape in their area, rather than the “let a thousand flowers bloom” approach of the early academy movement.
- The RDs are now part of the new DfE Regions Group which is a separate directorate in the DfE. We welcome John Edwards as the Director General of the Regions Group (formerly John was the Interim Chief Executive, Education and Skills Funding Agency; before that Regional Schools Commissioner, East Midlands and the Humber; and before that Director of Education and Skills, Manchester City Council; in case you’re wondering where you’ve come across him before).
- As well as schools, the RD roles now include children's social care, SEND, safeguarding and non-financial governance. Each of these areas is hugely significant and the RDs are going to be busy, learning about them first and then directing these services in the future.
- There are three pieces of work which need to slot into place to make the RDs as effective as possible:
- The Schools Bill – obviously this is an issue at the moment as the then Secretary of State and ministers removed significant clauses. What will happen with these clauses is an important question as several of them contained a menu of powers which would be used by RDs.
- The roll out of the white paper – we still do not have a definitive answer as to how ‘hard’ the 2030 target is for all schools to be in multi-academy trusts.
- In the white paper there is an outline of five factors that will define strong trusts – these need the right metrics and much greater definition.
We would advise you to get to know your RD and their team. When you are ready (see below), contact the regional team and meet to discuss the priorities for the area. At ASCL we are asking that every RD consults widely on a strategy for their area which is transparent and published. Your voice is vital in this strategy (see our position statement here
I know it’s an obvious thing to say but now is not the time to sit back and wait.
Whichever part of the system you lead, whether it’s a local authority maintained school, a single academy trust or a multi-academy trust, everything will change. There will be MAT growth, mergers, and new MATs will be formed. Planning is everything and we would advise looking at your vision, mission, strategy and operations to see whether they are fit for purpose. External eyes are always useful and ASCL can provide a consultancy service which provides experienced leaders to help you plan for the future. Please contact me email@example.com
and we can arrange a discussion about your needs.
Your leadership development is vital. Please have a look at our offer
which now includes a CEO programme but do get in touch if we can provide something bespoke for you or your team.
A final but crucial point - ASCL is about our members. Please contact us using the hotline - 0116 299 1122 - if you’re a member worried about your jobs or terms and conditions or use the firstname.lastname@example.org
email box to share with us broader concerns which inform our discussions with government.
We will be with you every step of the way.